Poor Workmanship - What are my rights?

How to tackle shoddy building work.

Kim Jones
Kim Jones
Updated 6 January 2022  | 4 mins read

What is poor workmanship?

Planning any type of home improvement, whether it's adding a conservatory or converting the loft  is always an exciting prospect.

And although most building jobs can be disruptive and have their hitches along the way, the result will usually give your home a new lease of life.

However, if you’re unlucky enough to experience shoddy workmanship, you could be left with a build that’s of inferior quality, has faults that need repair and at the very worst, is unsafe and dangerous.

Poor workmanship can take many forms.

It might be that builders fail to follow design briefs and plans properly. They may be inexperienced or careless and install something incorrectly. Or they could cut corners, use substandard materials or leave behind a messy finish.

Whatever the case, poor workmanship can turn your dream home project into a nightmare.

Luckily, there are steps you can take to get things put right.

Key points

  • The Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 and the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015 protect consumers who’ve received poor workmanship from a builder
  • It means a tradesperson who has breached the terms of these acts is legally responsible to amend their mistakes
  • Legal expenses cover on your home insurance could help you solve a dispute with a builder

What are my rights for poor workmanship?

Depending on when the building work was done, you’ll be protected under the Supply of Goods and Services Act 1982 or the Consumer Rights Act (CRA) 2015.

They dictate that:

  • Goods must be correctly installed
  • Work must be carried out within a reasonable timeframe with reasonable care and skill
  • Materials must be fit for purpose and of satisfactory quality, as described and agreed upon
  • Under the CRA, you can also claim compensation for any inconvenience caused

It'll depend on what exactly the issue is, but if your builder has breached any of the terms, you’re entitled to have repairs or replacements done and any faulty workmanship put right, free of charge.

This should happen within a reasonable time and without causing you significant inconvenience.

How to deal with poor workmanship

There are a few different ways to try and get the bad workmanship amended, including:

Gather evidence

Take photos of the problems. Collate and keep all correspondence between you and the builder that refers to the details of the job and what was agreed upon.

Speak to your trader

Call the builder to let them know you’re unhappy with the work and how you want them to put it right. Speak to the original trader you agreed the work with even if they have subcontracted it out.

Give them a reasonable timeframe in which to do the remedial work with an agreed deadline. Follow up with a letter or email detailing your phone call and keep copies.

The Citizens Advice website can help you with the wording of emails or letters, including details of how to quote your rights and what to ask for.

Hopefully, on receipt of your complaint, the builder will agree to rectify the problems quickly.

However, it would be useful in the interim for you to get estimates from other contractors for the job. That way, if your builder fails to turn up, you can let them know that if they don’t do the work by your agreed deadline, you’ll use another builder and reclaim the costs.

You could also let them know that you’ll be prepared to take them to court.

Start a formal complaint

Find out if your builder has an official complaints procedure. You might find this information on their website. Follow the procedure when you email or write your complaint.

If your builder doesn’t have an official complaints procedure, check if they’re a member of a trade association so you can ask for their advice on what to do next or how to follow their dispute resolution process.

Use an Alternative Dispute Resolution (ADR) scheme.

ADR schemes are used in the construction industry to help resolve disputes without the need to go to court. They usually cheaper, faster and less stressful than court proceedings and may involve mediation or arbitration.

Builders don’t have to be part of an ADR scheme, though.

But if your builder is a member of the Federation of Master Builders, they can use their recognised ADR scheme. Builders who have Trustmark symbols also offer ADR services.

If you use an ADR scheme, you’ll need to show your gathered evidence including photos of the poor workmanship plus relevant emails and correspondence between you and the builder.

If the ADR process doesn’t resolve the complaint, you could take your builder to the small claims court for breach of contract as a last resort. This applies if you’re claiming back less than £10,000 in England and Wales and £3,000 in Northern Ireland. For Scotland, the small claims - known as ‘Simple Procedure’ - maximum is £5,000.

You won’t need a solicitor for the small claims court.

If your claim is for a higher amount, you should seek legal advice.

Contact trading standards

If you think your builder acted unfairly, didn’t carry out the work properly and left your home in a dangerous state you can report them to Trading Standards.

They will use your evidence to decide if they’ll investigate the business.

Does home insurance cover poor workmanship?

Whether it’s been completed by a builder or you, it’s important to know whether your home insurance will cover failed home improvements. 

By builders

If you have legal expenses cover on your home insurance policy, it usually offers a legal services helpline where legal professionals can help you understand your rights and what steps you might take to resolve issues with your builder.

If you fail to reach an agreement and want to take legal action against your builder, then if your policy covers you, and if lawyers think you have a reasonable chance of winning your case, the cover could pay for your legal representation and costs.


If you have accidental damage cover on your home buildings and contents policies, the good news is that it could cover you for some DIY disasters like drilling through a water pipe, cracking your bathtub when applying wall tiles, or spilling paint over your carpet.

You’re unlikely to be covered if you attempted to do electrical, plumbing or gas work you weren’t qualified to do though. And if you caused damage through your own botched workmanship, your policy probably wouldn’t pay out either.

Check your policy for exclusions and tell your insurer before you begin a big project, as you may need special renovation insurance.